COVID-19 has wreaked financial havoc on nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and the healthcare industry in particular has taken a considerable hit. Prior to the pandemic, hospitals and health systems hadn’t seen such steep declines in visit volumes, staffing constraints, capacity and supply chain challenges, and more. However, with recovery efforts at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’s important to reflect on how we can improve the healthcare industry in years to come.
From this crisis, we’ve learned:
Telehealth is a viable option. Clinical care for various medical conditions can be effectively delivered virtually. In times like this, when social distancing can help prevent spreading illness, it becomes even more necessary. According to a recent patient survey,1 42% of respondents report using telehealth services since the start of COVID-19. Of those, 65% said they like using these services because it’s more convenient than in-office visits, and 63% said these offerings reduce their worry of being exposed to other sick patients. Payment parity and virtual financial clearance are areas to explore, and for the time being, it appears telehealth services are definitely here to stay. Choosing not to offer them may impact your profitability.
Patient education on the best and most affordable care setting for their condition is necessary. Emergency departments (EDs) are frequently over utilized. As outlined in Healthcare Evolution: Helping Providers Get Paid In an Era of Uncertainty, an estimated 13–27% of ED visits could be handled by other care settings (physician office, urgent care centers, etc.), and could save more than $4 billion annually.2 Not to mention, almost two-thirds of ED visits in 2017 came from six common chronic conditions; and of those, one in three were preventable and could’ve been treated in a more affordable outpatient setting.3 As a result of COVID-19, ED care has returned at the slowest rate when compared to inpatient and outpatient — and it may take some time to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Additionally, there’s been a sharp decline in the number of emergency room visits for ear pain and coughs, while other acute condition visits have remained consistent for the most part. While this may suggest patients are seeking care elsewhere or treating more minor illnesses at home, this decline presents an opportunity to educate and remind patients of which care setting can provide the best outcomes at the lowest cost — helping better manage their overall wellness, patient affordability and your bottom line.
Predictive analytics and social determinants of health data can improve overall wellness. Having a deeper knowledge into socioeconomic information regarding individuals and communities can help deliver better health outcomes. COVID-19 has had disparate impacts on vulnerable populations, and we’ve seen how food, transportation and housing insecurities can impact individual’s well-being. Living in a food desert reduces access to healthy food options. A lack of reliable transportation makes it harder to get to doctor’s appointments and access care, and homelessness can impact physical health. Digging into socioeconomic data can help fuel data-driven care interventions — and ensure they’re tailored to those who need it most.
For additional COVID-19 recovery insights and strategies, please visit our hub page.